Trickle-Down Kindness: The Way We Talk to Our Kids Matters

twins michele zippThere's something I've learned being a parent: To teach our kids to be kind, we must be kind. It sounds simple but it's easy to forget. There are times when we are so hurried in our days that we rush about forgetting the everyday niceties that our kids pick up on and emulate. What really works is teaching kids kindness and empathy through example.


In my home, we believe it's important to say "please" and "thank you" -- we also say "bless you" after someone sneezes, and we make it a point to hold the door for each other and others.

My daughter has taken on the role of official door holder, and she kept me in check when I walked through without saying anything the other day. After making sure the screen door was secure, she said to me, "I like holding the door for you, Mommy." At which point I realized I had neglected to say "thank you," so I did, and I let her know how helpful that is. And it is ... because I'm usually carrying 99 things.

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There are other times that are a bit more challenging, like when my twins (who are 6) are arguing. One tends to get upset faster, trying to reason with the other in a high-pitched whine. While the other yells loudly. I try to let them work it out themselves, so they can work on their own problem-solving tactics. But sometimes I summon my calmest calm and step in. What I do is ask them to take a moment to stop arguing and to think about what the other one wants. And then I ask them to speak to each other with kindness, with a kind voice, so they can understand each other. It may take two times before they completely remove the anger or frustration from their voice, but it works.

I admit that there are times that I yell and I hate it. I'm not a perfect Mom-bot programmed without emotion. But if I do yell, I apologize and explain why. My 6-year-olds seem to understand that if you make a mistake, apologizing and learning from it is a good thing.

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As adults, we still forget that meeting anger with anger is never a good thing. We are all learning and reminding ourselves of these things daily -- the same goes for kids whose emotions can run high when a prized toy breaks into a million pieces. But I love working on kindness and softness in myself, and it trickles down to my kids. We want our kids to be happy, yes, but being kind is key.

We can demonstrate kindness everywhere. And this even includes while driving in a car with your kids and not honking and banging on your steering wheel if another driver does something to annoy you. My daughter said someone she drives with often does this and it upsets her. I'm not naming names but I think we've all been guilty of this from time to time. That kind of anger and stress affects our kids, too. We can control the kindness in our environment, and it's best to keep that quota high. And it benefits not only the kids, but ourselves as well. Imagine if we all lived a life with more kindness?

Our family loves the art of the thank-you note, and we try to help each other in many ways -- clearing the table together, doing laundry, and other household things. We also make sure the people around us know we are thankful for them. It gives me so much joy to see my kids automatically say thank you for things. And it's also amazing to know the empathy they have for others.

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My daughter said there's a new kid who transferred into her class and she wanted to make sure she felt welcomed. It made me feel that all her please-and-thank yous and caring about others might have made that possible, that it strengthened her empathy. I'm so proud of her.

I try to practice kindness each day, while surrounding my kids with love and compassion. It really is in the little things we do -- and showing kindness in all we do -- that makes a great impact. Our kindness and empathy has an effect on our kids -- the more we practice it, the greater the chance we will raise kind and empathetic kids. We all make a priority for our kids to be happy, but making sure they are kind is key ... and helps ensure that happiness.


Image via Michele Zipp

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